Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thoughts on the County's Draft Land Use Planning Map

The Los Alamos County Department of Community and Economic Development held two public meetings in early February to present revised land use maps as part of the Comprehensive Plan. Land use maps basically show the preferred level of development for all properties within the County. I've had several requests to comment on the maps and detail some of the proposed changes.

A Bit of Background
An effort to develop a revised comprehensive plan for Los Alamos County began in 1998. As part of the planning process, the County Administrator appointed an Open Space Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee was established in May of 2000, was directed by Council to undertake a study that would result in…

"…an open space plan for Los Alamos County (that) would identify land, including acreage to be transferred from the Department of Energy (DOE), that is most important to the community and its natural habitat and provide for its long-term protection. A well-designed open space land plan would also help respond to housing and economic development needs by identifying areas suitable for controlled development."

This committee, and the subsequent Open Space Task Force, spent two years developing a Draft Los Alamos County Open Space Plan. The plan was received by the County Council, and the Council asked County staff to develop a land use map as a co-strategy for open space management. That was in 2003.

In 2004, Los Alamos County convened a “Town Hall” meeting facilitated by New Mexico First, a consulting firm that specialized in providing forums for solving issues related to development. The expected outcome of the two-day session was to develop recommendations for specific parcels on the land use map. The Town Hall participants recommended that Barrancas Canyon, Bayo Canyon, Pueblo Canyon, the Rendija Tract transfer parcel, the parcel south of the airport, White Rock Canyon, and all existing PL (W-1) and PL (W-2) lands be designated open space. They could reach not consensus on the approximately 15 acres on the east and south sides of the golf course.

Despite considerable time and effort by citizens and staff, a land use map was never developed and the open space plan never adopted.

The Draft Map

The draft map looks very good. Parcels of County-owned land currently used for outdoor recreation are mapped as natural areas, including two parcels previously zoned for housing or commercial. Below is a list of changes from the current zoning map, keyed to the map that follows:

  1. The southeast corner of the Rendija Tract is now owned by Los Alamos County and is not part of the Santa Fe National Forest. It probably should be designated Natural Area.
  2. The site of the demolished Depart of Energy Headquarters is designated Neighborhood Commercial/Mixed Use.
  3. The golf course and the Woodland Canyon parcel to the north is designated Park (currently Public Land).
  4. Two parcels in the Aspen School neighborhood are proposed to change from Public Land to Medium Density Residential. One parcel is on the southwest corner of the intersection of 34th and Villa, the other is between 34th and 35th just south of 2188 35th.
  5. The parcels on the south side of the golf course are proposed to change from Low Density residential to Natural Area.
  6. The following areas are proposed as natural area, but are not so-designated under the current zoning map (they are currently zoned Public Land or Light Industrial):

a)      The Dot Grant Trail parcel east of Range Road and the cemetery
b)      The parcel at the tip of Los Alamos Mesa east of the Pajarito Cliffs site where the Camp Hamilton Trail begins
c)      The upper Walnut Canyons bounded by Arizona, 35th, 36th, and Alabama
d)      The entrance to Hidden Canyon south of Trinity Drive and south of the  Mountain View subdivision
e)      The Canyon Rim Trail corridor is proposed as a Natural Area and Park
f)     White Rock Canyon

My only suggestions for changes at this stage:
·        Subdivide golf course “park” between Diamond Drive and Woodland Avenue to separate the golf course and the open space parts
·        Subdivide Overlook Park into park/ballfields and open space on the southern half of the parcel

When it comes down to zoning these parcels, I have lots of suggestions, but the main one is to create a clearly defined zoning classification for the open space network that is nearly continuous from the Rio Grande to the foothills above the Western Area. This network is shown on the land use map as Natural Area. In a town that seeks to market itself as an outdoor-oriented mountain community, it is an idea whose time has come.

Link to the Los Alamos Draft Land Use Map:

Link to the White Rock Draft Land Use Map:

Coming Soon: Designating trail access points on the land use map

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please enter reports on trail conditions. Thank you.